By Nataly Kelly

Was Apple right to apologize for its ‘Crush’ ad? Zappi’s Nataly Kelly thinks so, but she thinks the ad would never have survived testing.

Even Apple’s geniuses can fumble the ball. Last week, the brand apologized for its ‘Crush’ ad after seeing the market’s response. Responses were dramatic to the work which showed a number of creative tools being crushed into the thinnest-ever iPad.

But the real question lingers: why didn’t Apple test the ad beforehand? And I say that with confidence, knowing that any consumer insights professional worth their salt would have advised against its launch – unless, and bear with me here, Apple deliberately sought controversy.

Here’s what the brand said via AdAge. “Creativity is in our DNA at Apple, and it’s incredibly important to us to design products that empower creatives worldwide. Our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad. We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry.”

Tried and tested

Consumer reactions were unequivocal when we subjected the ‘Crush’ ad to rigorous testing on the Zappi platform. Testing with nationally representative panels in the US and UK, we compared their emotions and reactions with averages compiled from testing over 7,000 ads worldwide. The shock value far exceeded expectations–four times more shocking than the average ad (9.3% compared with 2.57%).

Additionally, it rated exceptionally high on surprise (16% v 10.1% average) and confusion (12% v 4.1% average). When confusion surpasses the norm threefold, it’s clear something is awry. These should have been glaring red flags for Apple had they tested the ad beforehand.

It begs the question: did the brand intentionally cause shock and confusion (believing any publicity is good publicity)? Or had it naively hitched its wagon to AI without foresight? Or had the marketers forgotten the basics of success: listening to the consumer?

Building brand equity is no small feat. It demands years, sometimes decades, of painstaking brand cultivation to achieve the iron-clad reputation Apple enjoys. So, why risk it all with a single misjudged ad?

True success in advertising entails building upon attributes consumers already adore about your brand, not bewildering them with entirely new ones that contradict your brand’s essence. The ad was shocking precisely because it starkly contrasted with the delightful and engaging ads Apple fans have come to expect over the years.

Issuing an apology was a start, but it’s merely a band-aid over a self-inflicted brand wound. If Apple genuinely seeks to rebound from ‘Crush,’ it must honestly introspect how it reached this point.

Here’s the unvarnished truth: within those corporate walls, consumer insights teams serve as the direct conduit to the customer’s vital signs. They immerse themselves in data signals to comprehend how consumers think, feel, and react. They act as proxies for consumers, guiding creative teams toward work that drives significant business impact. Ignore them, and you risk severing ties with the very audience you aim to engage.

Yet, most creatives balk at basing decisions on what they perceive as dull test results and dry metrics. They thrive on pushing boundaries and delivering fresh, provocative, and innovative work. Thus, even when data clearly predicts consumer reactions, creative teams often disregard or sidestep insights and partner findings due to an inherent cultural clash.

I empathize. I hail from a family of artists and musicians.

After pouring my heart and soul into a song, the last thing I’d want is to be told some arbitrary test predicts its failure. Similarly, I can imagine my brother’s reaction if I interrupted him mid-painting with data suggesting his art wouldn’t resonate–he’d dismiss me outright. True artistic endeavours embody a creative vision that isn’t easily swayed mid-course.

There’s also a logistical hurdle. Creatives can’t be told at the eleventh hour to pivot entirely. When deadlines loom, it’s logistically infeasible to backtrack. Yet, in business, ignoring consumer data in the creative process poses substantial risks.

So, how do we avoid the Crush?

It’s time to dismantle the antiquated divide between creatives and data analysts. Integrate consumer insights teams into the creative process early and consistently. View consumer data and insights as creative tools that, when infused into ad development, can yield remarkable outcomes.

Many of the world’s best creative minds need space and time to produce outstanding work. Integrating data into their process may sometimes feel stifling, but discomfort doesn’t negate its necessity. To craft exceptional advertising and products, brands must continually listen to and learn from consumers. Leveraging data and insights embeds the consumer directly into the creative process, making them co-creators.

Instead of shying away from creativity for fear of backlash, harness the power of data and insights to unlock new levels of creativity. When consumer feedback guides us, we forge deeper connections that transcend transactions, fostering enduring brand loyalty and advocacy in today’s fiercely competitive landscape.

Brands ignoring consumer data do so at their peril, while those embracing it will dominate the competition for years to come. If Apple’s not careful, it too could face the crush.

By Nataly Kelly

Sourced from the The Drum

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